Welcome to the conversation.
Those were the words that TEDxUF 2013 curator Stefan Wolff said Saturday as he welcomed the audience of about 1,600 people.
The independently organized TEDxUF event brought together nine speakers who embody TED’s main principle — “ideas worth spreading.”
“TED is not to make yourself famous. It’s not to get paid,” said Wolff, a 20-year-old economics junior. “It’s because you feel like you have a story worth sharing.”
The speakers were united by a theme of “Pursuing Passion,” but they covered a wide array of topics, including gene therapy, finding your authentic self and racial issues.
This was the fourth TEDx event held at UF, and it has quickly proved itself to TED organizers.
“As of last year, we’re in the top 10 percent of all TEDx conferences in the world,” Wolff said.
The ranking is based on the number of people attending, which makes TEDxUF one of the biggest TEDx events in the world.
The popularity of TED drew volunteer Sara Schwartz.
Schwartz, a 19-year-old architecture sophomore, had watched many TED videos over the years.
“I’m really interested in the ones about design, but they’re all really good, honestly,” Schwartz said.
A favorite speaker of Schwartz’s was Rebecca Brown, the head of the Streetlight program, which pairs volunteer college students with ill or dying teenagers.
Brown’s moving speech on death and dying brought many in the audience to tears, Schwartz said.
Brown was one of about 30 speakers solicited before the team chose the nine speakers and two performers, Wolff said. He said his team sought speakers based on their ideas, not their merit.
“The job, at the end of the day, of the curator is to make sure the people on stage are doing their ideas justice and really being proponents of ideas worth spreading,” Wolff said.
Other than the speakers, a major highlight of the TEDxUF event was the possibility to network, said Tommy Goode, a 24-year-old iOS developer for Feathr, a Gainesville startup company that creates applications for conferences.
Participants’ information was gathered at sign-up and upon their arrival, they received a name tag with their information and a personal profile on the TEDxUF app, developed by Feathr.
“We are hoping that there are other conference directors here that are observing and seeing how well this app is going to work out,” Goode said.
The app offered a map of the event, a schedule and a contact list of every attendee.
People could meet new connections and add them to multiple social networks all on one app.
“We were looking for new and innovative ways to get to the audience and get them to connect with each other, and this was the perfect marriage of both needs,” Wolff said.
TEDxUF speaker Rebecca Brown talks about challenging the stigma about death at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday.